Themis painting

Analysis of Boulet's "Themis"

J. E. L. 1997

Artist Susan Seddon Boulet created a series of paintings about mythological goddesses.   These paintings celebrate the return of "The Goddess" in our time.   This particular one is called "Themis", and it shows a female figure that seems to be simultaneously in two worlds. It seems likely that the artist has been been influenced by Carl Jung.   Jung talked about the psyche being comprised of polar opposites, which are comlementary to each other, and this painting could represent several of them, such as intellect and intuition, consciousness and unconsciousness, or as we say in present times, "right brain and left brain." 

Jung studied and wrote about the Eastern philosophical systems, among other things, and there is a hint of a Tao symbol in the painting.  A curved line separates the polar opposites, like a yin/yang border.  We can look at yin and yang as representing two different kinds of perception or energy. Yang ("masculine") energy is active and incisive, while yin ("feminine") energy is receptive and integrative.  The sun is seen in the yang portion, and the moon is seen in the yin portion.  Jung felt that everyone's most important life task is to balance the opposites within their psyche.  The figure in the painting seems to be balanced, half within the yang world and half within the yin world, which looks like ocean. 

She could easily be seen, as well, as a shaman figure dwelling simultaneously within the waking and dream states.   She combines the intuitive wisdom of the dream state with the mental acuity of her waking thought processes.   Even though her entire face is immersed in the unconscious realm, and she seems to be asleep, her right eye (which represents the conscious world) is open.  This seems to imply that she perceives things in the unconscious and brings them  into the conscious world, thus integrating the two kinds of perception.  This painting represents the Feminine Principle as a gateway to a kind of wisdom and integration which has been lost in western cultures for millennia.

The goddess "Themis" has been described as the "Goddess of Justice", and is often shown holding the scales of justice.   Scales are used to balance things and this can be interpreted as balancing the opposites, as well as being symbolic of what both Jung and his physicist friend, Niels Bohr, called "complementarity."  Psychologist Frank Barron once wrote that there are two complementary aspects of the evolutionary process :   "differentiation of structure and integration of function."  One interpretation is that everything eventually splits into conflicting opposites, and things evolve when these opposites are eventually integrated on a higher level of function.  From this standpoint, evolution is a spiral process. 

If we look at ourselves as conscious beings that arose out of a matrix called the Unconscious (which is symbolically the same as the Ocean), who can only experience consciousness and unconsciousness as conflicting states like waking and dreaming, then it might well be that the next step in our evolution is to experience these states in complementary interaction, finding our way back to our source and being consciously aware of it for the first time - the universe becoming aware of itself.  This painting resonates very strongly with me, and the best way for me to show this is to write about an example of my artwork with a related theme.  :

 MIRacle (J. E. L. ©1997)

MIRacle art piece


This is a computer graphic which was inspired by both my interest in Jungian ideas and my internship time at NASA, where I edited some of the video footage that was taken on board the MIR space station.   The image is of a feminine figure that represents Western culture's long submerged feminine faculties, such as intuition, which is wholistic perception free from the linear restraints of the intellect. The bright object in the sky is the MIR space station, which symbolizes our expansion beyond the restraints of gravity.  When life evolved out of the sea, it was an evolutionary leap onto land, a new world of gravitational forces.  Our present space exploration is a new turn on the evolutionary spiral, back into a world without gravity.

At the same time, we are experiencing an evolutionary expansion of intuition, moving beyond logic and getting reacquainted with the spirit and guidance within ourselves.  This is shown by a tremendous explosion of interest in personal growth, spirituality, psychic phenomena, and parallels between leading edge scientific theories and very ancient wisdom.  All of this is being mirrored on an outward level by the astronauts now learning how to function without gravity, learning how to orient themselves in entirely new ways.  (One of them wrote letters from MIR to his infant son, saying that his experiences were like becoming a child again and relearning how to do things.) 

In our present time of rapid change, a stable and secure life has as much reality for most people as gravity in space.  We are like the plant seedlings now growing in space, that can only orient themselves toward light and warmth, because they can't tell which way is up or down.  Synchronistically, the woman astronaut who first took care of these plants is named Shannon Lucid, who's last name  means "light".  The video that was taken of her tending the seedlings, shows her moving with languid swimming motions through gravity free corridors, just as a dreamer often floats in a lucid dream.

 Yesterday (March 7, 1997), in this very left-brained world called "Silicon Valley",  I went to a meeting at the "Foundation For Global Community" in Palo Alto.  The special occasion was the unveiling of a video recently completed by the FGC video team and shown on PBS.  It was a beautiful and artistic video, with nature scenes that were meant to invoke appreciation for one of the most precious resources on Earth, water. Synchronistically, this coincided with NASA's announcement, only a few days earlier, that the Lunar Probe verified the presence of water on the moon.  Water is adaptable, without form or structure, and it has now come into high focus as a topic of interest. From time immemorial, water and the moon have both been symbols of the Feminine Principle.

The astronauts on the MIR space station adapt to zero gravity, eventually feeling at home in space, and even losing some of their bone mass as their bodies adjust to this environment without a gravitational pull to necessitate bodily form and structure.  When they later return to Earth, they readapt to gravity, both physically and psychologically.  Scientists are discovering that our bodies and psyches are very dynamic and adaptable systems.   Could it be that we are transforming into a species of shamen who are able to travel between the groundedness of Earth and the untethered vastness of space, while simultaneously traveling between the linear structure of the intellect and the nebulousness of the dreamworld?   A physicist friend took an early retirement from his job as a rocket scientist, in order to write books to facilitate this transformation.  His latest ( Miracles of Mind,1997, by Russell Targ and Jane Katra) is about ESP and "non-local mind".

My educational goal is to be able to inspire this evolutionary leap through art, in the form of filmmaking and still images.  I have written a script for a film I would like to make someday, which compares this global transformation with the awakening of the heart in a developing embryo.   This would be a feminine counterpart to physicist Peter Russel's film, The Global Brain, in which he compares our new world wide  communication network to a developing nervous system.  When the nervous system reaches a certain stage, the heart begins to beat, and the "global heart" is being manifested by a return to feminine faculties and perception, like Odysseus returning home to Penelope after a long, arduous journey of exploration and individuation. 

Technological progress has come full circle, bringing us back toward the awareness that we are one global family, and that the Earth ("Gaia") is the source of our being.   Science has discovered that everything is part of one continuous electromagnetic field, and we cannot separate ourselves from the things we observe.   The newest and most esoteric scientific theories seem to be saying that our very thought patterns influence our physical reality, even down to the DNA in our cells.   If this is true, then our thoughts and perceptions influence our evolution, which gives extreme significance to art and film as a form of creative visualization for the collective unconscious, either negatively or positively.  Images and symbols affect us on a profound level, much more than we know. 

Thirty years ago, the breathtaking image of the whole Earth seen from space, appearing on TV sets all around the world, fostered a quantum leap in perceptual development, a global awareness that the boundaries between nations don't really exist, and that we are all part of one ecological system.  The very first Earth Day was held the following year, and "wholistic" consciousness began to grow.  During this time, books began to appear about the return of the Goddess.  Now, thirty years later, as the Internet clicks into place, bringing instantaneous awareness and interaction, the global heartbeat is becoming stronger and more regular.   What happens in one part of the world is felt everywhere while it's happening, no longer out of sight and mind.   Although the transformation has just barely begun, on a cosmic scale we are very suddenly starting to relate on a heart level again, as the human race did when the Feminine Principle was revered so long ago.

A poem by Rainer Maria Rilke seems to exemplify what's written here, especially since poetry is the language of metaphor, which is a "feminine" perception. 

I live my life in growing orbits

   Which move out over things of the world.

  Perhaps I can never achieve the last,

   but that will be my attempt.

      I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,

     And I have been circling for a thousand years,

      And I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm,

   or a great song.


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